Sugarbird's Sweet Nothings

I am passionate about food. And cooking. And baking. And running. Come and find a new recipe, a funny story, some strong opinions and whatever else I feel like throwing in the mix today.

Archive for the ‘Biscuits’ Category

October 22nd, 2013 by Clarabella

Christmas is coming

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Its inevitable, and the shops will certainly not let us forget it, Christmas is coming. Last year I planned my Christmas a little a-la-last-minute, and this year I have decided that I should plan better. So I am already thinking of presents, and listening closely to conversations to pick up on any hints or possibilities for what my loved ones might like for Christmas. This year we will be in Holland for Christmas for the first time so the present-buying list is a bit longer and I am looking forward to finding some gifts for the extended family. I do love Christmas shopping, although I do loathe the Christmas-shopping-crowds, so I am a firm believer in online shopping. No crowds, no queues, no aching feet. Just me, my little mac laptop, and a nice cup of coffee, and a scrummy flapjack from my hamper 🙂

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I have often bought a Christmas food hamper for my Mum for Christmas when it is a year that I won’t be with her for Christmas day. I think its a really nice way to add some lovely treats to the Christmas table that will be great for munching on Christmas day, or, if everyone is already overfed, that will last the rest of Christmas week. There is nothing wrong with having Christmas pudding on Boxing Day as well. And why not New Years too?

If you are going to be doing online shopping like me, then there is a lovely website called Hampergifts, who have a fantastic selection of Christmas hampers for all Christmas budgets. With everything from wines, to fruit and nuts, biscuits, pâté and puddings, the selection looks delicious and its hard to choose just one!

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I have had the pleasure of trying out the Christmas Ruby hamper, and my Mum and I enjoyed the lovely bottle of Red while she was visiting over the weekend. I also really enjoyed the unusual vanilla nuts, and the cherry and chocolate liqueurs went beautifully with the red wine, yum 🙂 Chocolate and cherry and red wine is a match made in heaven. I think I should incorporate that into a cake somehow. I think it would make a lovely Christmas flavour. Dark Chocolate and cherry cake. Mmmmmm. Feeling inspired now, time to head to the kitchen 🙂
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(This post is in association with Hampergifts)
July 13th, 2011 by Clarabella

Pistachio Macarons

I have been beaten by the tricky macaron more times than I care to remember. There was the strawberry macaron mush incident, and then there was the lumpy chocolate macaron fiasco. But not one to sit down and take being beaten quietly (any more), and inspired by the brilliant bakery that is Paul’s where I had a perfect pistachio macaron, I plucked up the courage to give the little devils another go.

It had to be pistachio as the perfect Paul’s macaron was green and glorious and I just had to try recreate it in some way. So I pulled out a bag of the glorious petit green devils, and subjected them to the blades of the little blender, and the game was on.

 

The basic concept of the macaron is not a complicated one. Ground almonds (and pistachios in his case), sugar and egg whites. Egg whites airy and whipped, gently folded in ground nuts. Pipe into little circles, bake and hey presto, macaron bliss. Or not. So all the prep went smoothly. Consistency seemed right, colour was good, piping was perfect. They baked up rather pretty, although a little wonky I have to confess, but I blame the oven for that. But the consistency was just not right.

Paul macarons are heavy and dense with rich, sweet nuttiness. They are strong and pack a punch. Mine were weak and spineless. The dome of the macarons was hollow. They were empty. How does that happen? Only the macaron gods can tell me. And they aren’t feeling particularly communicative at the moment. Rude and unfair I say. But what can one humble home baker do? They tasted nice, and nobody I fed them to complained at their hollowness. I think the pistachio buttercream helped make up for that.

I am sure that I will re-attempt them at some stage, when I am feeling brave and thick-skinned again. Until then, I am very busy with a project. A big one for me. Gone are the days of the office, and here are the days of self-employed uncertainty. I am starting up my own cupcake business and praying and hoping and wishing that it will take off a little. I’m not greedy, I am not out to be a millionaire, but just enough to keep me busy and keep me in sugar, butter, eggs and red wine. Wish me luck, and all fingers and toes crossed please 🙂 I will post up the website URL when its ready to launch. Until then Sugarbird Cupcakes will remain faceless. Just a rumour on a little, insignificant blog…

Pistachio macaroons

What you will need:
55g pistachios
55g ground almonds
200g icing sugar
Pinch or so of green powder food colouring, or paste if you prefer
90g egg whites (about 3)
20g caster sugar

For the buttercream
55g pistachios
250g icing sugar
125g unsalted butter, softened

What to do:
I like to set my piping bag up in a tall glass so that I can easily transfer the macaroon mixture into the bag. (You’ll need to fit it with a 1cm plain nozzle.
Line 2 baking trays with non-stick baking parchment.
Grind the pistachios in a food processor to a fine powder then add the ground almonds, colour and icing sugar and continue to blend until the nuts and icing sugar are completely blended.
Don’t wash up the blender as you’ll need to grind more pistachios for the buttercream below.
Whisk the egg whites in a large, clean bowl to soft peaks. Slowly whisk in the caster sugar until stiff peaks form and the egg whites are glossy.
Now for the ‘macronage’: fold the nut and icing sugar powder into the egg whites until well combined. You’ll end up with quite a thick paste. Be careful not to overmix!
Spoon the mixture into the piping bag and pipe 3cm circles, about 2cm apart onto the baking tray. Rather than pipe in a circlular motion, you need to squeeze the mixture out then whip the nozzle away. The macaroons should flatten out, however, if you’re left with little ‘peaks’, flatten them with a wet finger.
Pick the trays up and carefully drop them onto the counter – this helps the macaroons develop characteristic ‘feet’.
Leave the macaroon shells to dry out for at least 30 minutes. (They’re ready when they’re no longer sticky to the touch). Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 170C.
Bake the macaroons for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let them cool completely before you try to remove them. If they are really sticky and look hollow underneath, try baking them for 5 more minutes.

For the buttercream, blend the pistachios to a fine powder, then blend again with the icing sugar until you have a pale green powder.
Beat the butter until soft and fluffy then beat in the pistachio icing sugar. If you’re using an electric whisk, I would beat the buttercream for a few minutes to make it really light and fluffy.
You can either spread the buttercream onto the macaroons using a knife or pipe it on for a clean finish.

May 30th, 2011 by Clarabella

Pumpkin Biscotti

When my dear friend Sandra left the Manchester for the altogether warmer & sunnier city of Dubai, I inherited some useful and interesting baking ingredients. None of these came close to making up for the fact that she was leaving, that is a very sad fact ( 🙁 ), but a little baking with interesting ingredients does do a little to soothe my sadness.

You don’t get canned pumpkin puree in the UK. You can buy it online for an exorbitant price of course, but that is just not worth it. I could just buy a whole pumpkin and massacre it myself, but I am not feeling quite enthusiastic enough for that. And its not the right time of year for fresh pumpkin anyway (thats my excuse and I’m sticking to it). So when I gleaned a tin of pumpkin puree from Sandra’s cupboard, I started to mull over all the potential uses. I have made pumpkin brownies before, and I did not want to be quite traditional enough to go with a pumpkin pie, so I settled on biscotti for my first half of the tin of pumpkin. Read the rest of this entry »

April 12th, 2011 by Clarabella

Cappuccino Biscotti

Foreword: I haven’t been able to run properley for over a week. I rested for a week and a half and I tried running on Saturday, and it hurt. I tried again on Sunday hoping that it may have been my imagination, and it still hurt. What the heck!? I just go over shin splints and now this random pain. I will have to self medicate with chocolate and then go and get my legs pummeled by Mr Physio Guy.

I like my morning coffee. I’m not a big coffee drinker and its generally the only coffee I will have in the day, but its part of my routine and there is something comforting and gently awakening about the warm, creamy drink that makes the day start ok. No matter how grey and dreary it is outside, not matter how late I woke up after the alarm went off, no matter what trials joys I know the day has in store for me, no matter whether I forgot my lunch, again. Its ok. I have my warm, frothy, soothing coffee. Read the rest of this entry »

March 20th, 2011 by Clarabella

Vodka Cream Pasta and Botched Biscotti

So the other night, after a hectic day, I wanted pasta. Pasta is the food I turn to when I want flavour, and comfort and ease. And I was in the mood for all three. But I wanted something a little different. Something with a twist. And thats when I remembered Vodka Cream Pasta that I had made once before. I found it on Smitten Kitchen and, like everything else on that gorgeous blog, it is sublime. And I have a big bottle of Smirnoff that is just the thing. Now I know some people may say that using fancy Smirnoff in cooking may be some kind of crime, but I think of it like wine. If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it.

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